Cost of Conflict in the Middle East by the Strategic Foresight Group (2009)

Written by admin on March 17th, 2010

Bar graphs and pie charts may not top a photograph’s ability to express a thousand words but Costs of Conflict in the Middle East comes close. Published by the Strategic Foresight Group, a think-tank in Mumbai, India, this informative book offers a compendium of facts and figures on an array of subjects concerning conflict in the Middle East. Want to know the opportunity costs to the region since the Madrid conference failed to bring about a Palestinian-Israeli peace? ($12 trillion). Ever wonder about the number of lives lost in the three Arab-Israeli wars, Israel’s wars with Lebanon, and the Intifadas? (70,000 – 110,000).  How about which country has the largest portion of its citizens in the military? (Israel) Or which country has the largest number of paramilitary forces roaming its countryside? (Iran).

The information is categorized with an eye toward revealing not only the costs of conflict incurred by states but also the price exacted in human security. Calculating state costs are straight forward: tallying human deaths, military expenditures, missile numbers, nuclear capabilities, and itemizing the material consequences of a nuclear exchange in the region. Calculating human security costs is a more imprecise task but the authors identify some arresting issues. A chapter on the environment focuses on ruinous oil related damage, depleted uranium shells, and the destruction of water supplies and irrigation infrastructures. Social and political costs spotlight fractious religious demography, the curtailment of civil liberties and freedom of the press, and the woeful condition of children.

Another chapter shows how the international community is affected by Middle East discord but particular attention is paid to the Israel/Palestine conflict. For the Israelis, picture graphs show the number of youths killed by terrorist attacks against school buses, discos or malls. The number of Qassam rocket and missile attacks underscores the data assessing the psychological fear of terrorist attacks that envelop Israelis of all walks of life. For the Palestinians, charts detail the number of Palestinians in Israeli detention centers, the number of fatalities since the first Intifada, and Palestinian poverty rates. A sense of the occupation’s repression is offered with graphs displaying the number of village or city closures per day, the number of West Bank checkpoints and even an estimate of the time wasted due to the checkpoints.

Costs of Conflict was written with the general reader in mind; there are no regression analyses to confront or standard deviations to consider. The graphs, tables, and charts are large and the ample use of colors makes them easy to read and understand. A narrative offers observations and commentary on the data underpinning each chapter’s topic.

At its heart, Costs of Conflict offers a cost-benefit analysis of war and peace in the Middle East. In stark, simple terms, it shows the terrible burden, in terms of lives, money, natural resources, and social torment, the states and peoples of the region have suffered on account of on-going conflict. Details of the opportunity costs incurred by the region – a subject rarely discussed in most studies – and a chapter showing the significant social and economic benefits that would result from a regional peace accord is startling. But another chapter projects the future risks which threaten to plunge the region into further chaos. Costs of Conflict in the Middle East offers unambiguous empirical evidence for why the crosscurrents of imperial hubris, ideological delusion, and ethnic chauvinism that buffet the region must make way for mutual respect and common security.

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